The National Football League (NFL) is reporting that Art Modell, the longtime owner of the Baltimore Ravens, died on Thursday of natural causes. He was 87.
Art’s son David confirmed the sad news in a statement just released by the Ravens Thursday morning:
“Sadly, I can confirm that my father died peacefully of natural causes at 4 a.m. this morning,” David Modell said. “My brother John Modell and I were with him when he finally rejoined the absolute love of his life, my mother Pat Modell, who passed away last October.
” ‘Poppy’ was a special man who was loved by his sons, his daughter-in-law Michel, and his six grandchildren. Moreover, he was adored by the entire Baltimore community for his kindness and generosity. And, he loved Baltimore. He made an important and indelible contribution to the lives of his children, grandchildren and his entire community. We will miss him.”
Art Modell — an entrepreneur that worked in the advertising, public relations businesses, and television production in New York City — purchased the Cleveland Browns in 1961 for $4 million, an unprecedented sum at that time.
Three decades later, he uprooted the franchise, moving to Baltimore in 1996 and renaming it the Ravens.
After the move, Modell acknowledged his diminished standing in Cleveland, where the Browns won an NFL title in 1964 and reached the championship game in 1965, 1968, and 1969.
”I have a great legacy, tarnished somewhat by the move,” he said in 1999. ”The politicians and the bureaucrats saw fit to cover their own rear ends by blaming it on me.”
The move was also believed to be the main reason why Modell never made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite being one of 15 finalists in 2001 and a semifinalist seven times between 2004 and 2011.
ESPN writes that, during his four decades as an owner in the NFL, Modell did much to help shape the league as we know it today. In addition to serving as the President of the NFL from 1967-69 and heading up the negotiating team for the first collective bargaining agreement with the players, Art was also instrumental in the 1970 launch of ABC’s Monday Night Football as chair of the NFL’s television committee for more than 30 years.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter talks about Art Modell’s impact on the NFL in the video below: